The 2020 Oscars went without a host this year, but the Academy still trotted out two former hosts to deliver what amounted to a traditional Oscars monologue.
And yet, Chris Rock and Steve Martin probably went in hardest on the Oscars themselves, highlighting the serious lack of diversity in this year’s nominees.
They had plenty of light-hearted jokes at various nominees including Martin Scorsese (“I loved the first season of ‘The Irishman'”) and Brad Pitt (“It’s like looking in a mirror”) along the way, but their most memorable material touched on serious social issues … and Jeff Bezos.
The head honcho of Amazon came under attack by Chris Rock in the most relentless barrage of jokes lobbed at any single target. “When he writes a check, the bank bounces,” Chris said to set it up. It would prove his tamest joke.
He joked that Bezos “is so rich, he got divorced and he’s still the richest man in the world” and suggested the billionaire thought “Marriage Story” was a joke. As Bezos laughed along, Chris asked if Steve had any jokes he’d like to toss onto the fire.
“No, I like getting my packages on time,” Steve deadpanned.
But their biggest target on the night appeared to be injustice, as primarily manifested through racism and sexism. Chris started it off with a joke at Steve’s expense, saying that Steve told him “J.Lo is killing it two weeks in a row” after Janelle Monae kicked off the show with a high-energy routine.
He followed that up with a joke about racism in law enforcement by asking what impact Mahershala Ali’s two Oscars makes when he gets pulled over. “Nothing.”
Finally, he hit the Oscars directly when he and Steve turned their attention to Cynthia Erivo, nominated for her work in “Harriet.”
“Cynthia did such a great job in ‘Harriet’ hiding black people that the Academy got her to hide all the black nominees,” he said. “Cynthia, is Eddie Murphy under the stage?”
Murphy was considered a shoe-in for his work on the film “Dolemite Is My Name,” but he was shut out. In fact, Cynthia was the only black nominee of the night, as the guys also pointed out.
Looking back at the first Academy Awards, Steve pointed out that “in 1929, there were no black acting nominees.”
“And now in 2020, we’ve got one!” Chris marveled.
But they didn’t stop there, also taking aim at the biggest controversy of this year’s Oscar nominees. Chris pointed out all the great directors nominated, but Steve wasn’t so sure. “I thought there was something missing from the list this year.”
“Vaginas?” Chris asked to thunderous applause.
They also took aim at their own privilege, with Steve sliding into his smarmy blowhard persona as he touted what an amazing night it was. Chris tried to get serious for a moment, saying, ” I don’t know, Steve. I’m a little conflicted. I was driving here tonight and seeing the terrible homeless problems in LA.”
Steve blew him off instantly, looking out at the sea of faces, “Thank you, Chris,” he said dismissively. “So many stars!”
It was a beautiful statement about our willingness to overlook that which is uncomfortable and how easily we seek and embrace meaningless distraction over thinking about things that are real. It was a great way to parallel the injustices in the Oscars as a privileged parallel to suffering and injustice in the real world.
We pay attention to the injustices faced by these privileged stars, and they are very real as well, but we don’t always think about the injustice right outside the window.
By combining the two into one monologue piece, it might have people taking a beat to think just a little deeper, from the Academy members themselves to the viewing audience around the globe.
At least ‘Hair Love’ won. Watch the moment below.
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) February 10, 2020